We really need to talk about suicide

This week, two people who were critical in my formation as an adult have decided to take their own lives, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain.

These were both two people I admired greatly early on in my life. Kate helped me feel validated that you could be both quirky and stylish, funny and fashionable, edgy and elegant.

And I used to watch Anthony Bourdain faithfully. From his days on the Travel Channel to Kitchen Confidential to Parts Unknown, I loved his no BS take on culture, travel, and food. Anthony made me want to be a travel writer.

They both have so many things in common; they were both pursuing their dreams on the public stage, they both embraced their own individuality and unique spin on the world, they gave us as a culture beautiful, funny, and thoughtful expressions of that individuality, they both appeared to be living the dream with wealth, renown, and lives many of us can only dream about, and both as of today, are gone.

Both Kate and Anthony suffered, unknown to us all, with their own demons. And rather share or even hint at the struggles they endured, for the sake of brands or reputations, or whatever else, they suffered until they could suffer no more. Both decided it would be better for them to end their own lives rather than continue on.

Mental health is paramount to a healthy life, and these losses prove that. No amount of money, fame, followers, or whatever will replace your peace and sanity. Both are hard to hold on to and easy to lose. Interestingly enough, while there is emphasis on suicide as a mental health concern, over 50% of suicides came without any known mental health struggles. Rather, the people committing suicide often had other troubles, such as financial issues, relationship troubles, substance abuse or misuse, recent crises, and physical health problems.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), suicide rates have jumped in the U.S. by more than 30% since 1999. The most popular of the methods of suicide being guns accounting for more than half of deaths.

But suicide prevention is not just a gun control issue, but an exposure to other deadly means as well. A lot of thought goes into planning one’s suicide, research proves, however, the choice to actually take one’s own life happens impulsively. Simply not having the means by which to commit suicide allows time for intervention, often saving lives.

“You may be thinking about it over time, but that moment when you actually make an attempt is a very short window,” says Robert Gebbia, head of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “If you could make it harder to make that attempt by not having access to the means, often what happens is the feelings will pass, it gives people time for someone to intervene and get them help, so that is a really important preventative step that can be done. And there’s good research to support that.”

The sad thing is there are only a handful of tiny federally funded suicide prevention program for children and teens, but none for adults. The reason being that our government doesn’t see the real “investment” in suicide prevention for adults. But with numbers climbing every day, the need for not only prevention programs and suicide prevention education is expanding with every person who succumbs to suicide.

If you find yourself feeling or thinking suicidal thoughts, PLEASE SEEK HELP. Call 1–800–273–8255 or text 741741. (En Español: 1–888–628–9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1–800–799–4889) Or contact someone. Or tell somebody. You do not have to suffer alone.

This post was originally shared on The Reclaimed Blog.

Whitney Alese is a writer, podcaster and cultural commentator. Featured in WIRED Magazine (September 2020). She is based in Philadelphia.

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